Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce is
the voice of business in L.A. County. Founded in 1888, the Chamber promotes
a prosperous economy and quality of life in the Los Angeles region.
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Californians have reason to be encouraged by last week’s election of Assembly Majority Leader Karen Bass as the next Speaker of the State Assembly. Together with the new State Senate President pro Tem-elect, Darrell Steinberg, these two trusted consensus builders take the legislative reins at a crucial moment in California’s history.
California faces a series of daunting challenges as the economic slowdown intensifies. The staggering $16 billion budget shortfall tops the list as the state is forced to cut services or increase taxes. The Legislature is still struggling to work out a water bond issue with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to fix the broken Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and ensure continued water delivery to two-thirds of California. Last year’s push to enact meaningful health care reform limped along only to meet its demise shortly after the new year. Unemployment is up, but the state is in no hurry to put people back to work by allocating the $40 million in infrastructure money approved by the voters in November 2006 to improve our quality of life and keep our traffic from creeping to a gridlocked halt.
Principled, no-nonsense, bipartisan leadership is critical if the Legislature is to successfully confront these challenges and effectively work with the governor on real solutions. Bass and Steinberg have both demonstrated these qualities during their time in Sacramento. They understand that progress for California will require Democrats and Republicans to work more collaboratively and find common ground rather than staking out positions at the extremes of each caucus.
During her four years in the Assembly, representing a portion of west Los Angeles, Bass has championed small business legislation which cut out layers of bureaucratic red tape for state licensing and contracting. She also sponsored critical reforms to the foster care system for youth and was the principal co-author of AB 1540, the Chamber’s “Cash for College” bill, which expanded college financial aid to thousands of high school students throughout the state.
Steinberg, who represents a district in Sacramento and previously served in the Assembly, has worked diligently to find a solution to the state’s broken water policy and has demonstrated strong leadership in tackling the state’s unacceptable rate of high school dropouts. Both Steinberg and Bass are working with the Chamber on a package of bills to ensure that all California students graduate from high school prepared for college and a career.
As one of their first actions, we hope that both leaders will come together and jointly endorse the California Voters FIRST Act, a legislative redistricting reform ballot initiative sponsored by the Chamber, Common Cause and AARP and chaired by Gov. Schwarzenegger. The California Voters FIRST Act will end the inherent conflict of interest that allows state lawmakers to draw their own district boundaries. Supporting the California Voters FIRST Act would be a strong statement about improving transparency and accountability in our state government.
The Chamber congratulates Bass and Steinberg. We look forward to our continued partnerships with them as we confront California’s challenges head on. There’s not a moment to waste.
And that’s The Business Perspective.
Gary L. Toebben
President & CEO
Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
The Business Perspective is a weekly opinion piece by Gary Toebben, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
Gary Toebben, President & CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce
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